The program covers only frontline workers, seniors and people suffering from chronic illnesses. Those of them who are aged 55 and older are eligible for the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
The Armenian government received late last month 24,000 doses of the jab from the UN-backed COVAX Facility. It went on to import 15,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine on April 8.
The Russian vaccine is offered to younger people deemed most at risk from the coronavirus. State-run policlinics across the country of about 3 million began administering it on Sunday.
Yerevan’s Policlinic No. 12 has a list of about 3,000 people covered by the first phase of the vaccination campaign. Only 22 of them, including policlinic personnel, have agreed to receive vaccine shots so far.
“When a policlinic nurse called me I said at first that I will think about that,” one newly vaccinated woman told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “Then I decided to come here and get vaccinated.”
“When I ride a bus I may sit next to people not wearing masks. I need to be safe,” she said.
According to the policlinic director, many people reluctant to follow her example remain worried about the vaccines’ life-threatening side effects.
Davit Melik-Nubarian, a public health expert, said the authorities should have done a better job of raising public awareness of COVID-19 vaccination and its importance.
“Many people in our country have unfounded skepticism towards not only these specific vaccines but also vaccination in general,” said Melik-Nubarian. He said this is the result of years of disinformation spread by groups and individuals with scant knowledge of medicine.
Health Minister Anahit Avanesian said last week that the government’s objective is to have between 600,000 and 700,000 people vaccinated within a year.
The pace of vaccinations remains slow despite a continuing third wave of coronavirus cases in Armenia. The Ministry of Health reported earlier on Wednesday 1,033 new single-day cases and 30 COVID-19-related deaths.
The ministry said more than 1,200 people infected with the disease are in a serious or critical condition and there were only two vacant beds at the intensive care units of Armenian hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.